National World journalists voice anger at 1.5 per cent pay award for Local Democracy Reporters

  • 29 May 2024

NUJ calls on National World to offer a fair pay rise to its Local Democracy Reporters.

The National Union of Journalists has condemned publisher National World’s failure to offer a fair pay rise to journalists providing essential news stories including on corruption and council scrutiny to local communities.

Local democracy reporters (LRDs) at National World are funded by the BBC as part of its flagship Local Democracy Reporting service and will this year receive a 1.5 per cent pay rise issued by the BBC as part of its agreement with publishers. National World has refused to contribute to the award allowing for a fair increase to journalists integral to its success, despite doing so in previous years. 

LDRs at a rival publisher recently received a five per cent increase in line with pay rises offered to journalists at the company. Despite both publishers receiving £38,299 from the BBC per filled LDR role outside London and £40,551 within, National World has cited national insurance and costs including management time, finance, human resources and training as additional expenditure incurred and therefore impacting their ability to provide a pay award journalists deserve.

The NUJ has asked the business to disclose written details of costs but has received no written information despite claims of extensive financial analysis held by the business. The current BBC set minimum salary for senior LDRs is £24,416 outside London and £26,636 within leaving a significant surplus from BBC funding. 

National World’s decision to deliberately exclude LDRs from receiving a company-wide pay increase has been called a shameful disregard by the NUJ, of the contributions of these journalists in ensuring local news thrives.

The union believes the 1.5 per cent pay rise proposed fails to consider high living costs incurred by journalists including those struggling financially. The union has urged the company to rethink its offer and align an increase with awards to all other journalists at the publisher, following agreement of a minimum four per cent rise for those earning between £30,000 and £49,999 and six percent for those earning under £30,000.

In March, the NUJ called on the BBC to review and increase the annual uplift to ensure journalists are fairly paid. 

Statement on behalf of the NUJ National World LDR chapel:

The NUJ National World LDR chapel members are angry that the firm is taking this unfair stance towards local democracy reporters. The firm receives £38,299 per reporter outside London from the BBC - thousands more than any of us are actually paid - so in the absence of evidence to the contrary we refute the company's argument that it is losing money on the scheme.

If the firm brought our pay rises up to the same level as other colleagues, it would cost them less in any case – the BBC funding formula is increased by 1.5 per cent annually, which the firm is obliged to pass on to staff, and in previous years has topped this up to the same level of pay increase as other National World staff. This means that if the firm agreed to parity again this year, the BBC would effectively fund 25 per cent of the 6pc rise for staff earning less than £30,000 and 37.5 per cent of the 4pc rise for those earning more than £30,000.

Being involved in the LDR scheme, which plays a vitally important role in scrutinising local councils and other authorities, brings prestige to the company and our copy is used on National World websites and in print newspapers - many print products rely heavily on LDR copy - adding to the company's profitability. Financial statements indicate that print provides the bulk of National World revenue.

The company's justification seems to revolve around the fact that it is paying slightly more than the bare minimum BBC-approved salary levels for LDRs. We welcome the fact that National World has this year moved staff on to the real living wage as a minimum but we would argue that the fact that several LDRs have benefited from this shows how low our pay actually is.

All of us are struggling with rising prices and living costs, in common with all our National World colleagues - why then are we being singled out and left behind in this way? We thank National World NUJ colleagues for supporting us and raising this issue in their own local-level pay talks with management.

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